like she’s doing me a big favor

March 21 [Mon], 2016, 17:37
That afternoon Miss Celia’s in her bathroom sitting on the toilet lid. She’s got the hair dryer on the back tank and the hood pulled over her bleached head. With that contraption on she wouldn’t hear the A-bomb explode.

I go upstairs with my oil rags and I open that cupboard for myself. Two dozen flat whiskey bottles are hidden behind some ratty old blankets Miss Celia must’ve toted with her from Tunica County. The bottles don’t have any labels fastened to them, just the stamp Old KENTUCKY in the glass. Twelve are full, ready for tomorrow. Twelve are empty from last week. Just like all these damn bedrooms. No wonder the fool doesn’t have any kids.

On THE FIRST THURSDAY of July, at twelve noon, Miss Celia gets up from the bed for her cooking lesson. She’s dressed in a white sweater so tight it’d make a hooker look holy. I swear her clothes get tighter every week.

We settle in our places, me at the stovetop, her on her stool. I’ve hardly spoken word one to her since I found those bottles last week. I’m not mad. I’m irate. But I have sworn every day for the past six days that I would follow Mama’s Rule Number One. To say something would mean I cared about her and I don’t. It’s not my business or my concern if she’s a lazy, drunk fool.

We lay the battered raw chicken on the rack. Then I have to remind the ding-dong for the bobillionth time to wash her hands before she kills us both.

I watch the chicken sizzle, try to forget she’s there. Frying chicken always makes me feel a little better about life. I almost forget I’m working for a drunk. When the batch is done, I put most of it in the refrigerator for supper that night. The rest goes on a plate for our lunch. She sits down across from me at the kitchen table, as usual.

“Take the breast,” she says, her blue eyes bugging out at me. “Go ahead.”

“I eat the leg and the thigh,” I say, taking them from the plate. I thumb through the Jackson Journal to the Metro section. I pop up the spine of my newspaper in front of my face so I don’t have to look at her.

“But they don’t have hardly any meat on them.”

“They good. Greasy.” I keep reading, trying to ignore her.

“Well,” she says, taking the breast, “I guess that makes us perfect chicken partners then.” And after a minute she says, “You know, I’m lucky to have you as a friend, Minny.”

I feel thick, hot disgust rise up in my chest. I lower my paper and just look at her. “No ma’am. We ain’t friends.”

She blinks at me with her fake eyelashes. Stop it, Minny, my insides tell me. But I already know I can’t. I know by the fists in my hands that I can’t hold this in another minute.
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